CAREER CHOICE: SCOPING OR REPORTING?
I'm considering either scoping or becoming a court reporter. I'd appreciate any input as I make my decision.
If you're thinking about whether to be a scopist or a court reporter,
just keep in mind that to become a court reporter starting from zero
words per minute on the Stenograph is going to take you AT LEAST 3
years to accomplish, and that's a conservative estimate. That's also
attending a real live school that you attend 5 days a week without
fail. Ok, maybe you could do it in two years and change if you
really practice a LOT. If you just practice during the time you're
attending class and don't practice at home, then it's going to be 3-4
years MINIMUM, plus you've got to be able to learn the legal and
medical and all the other academics. Don't let anyone tell you you
can do it in less time. They're just not being honest with you.
Whether you attend an online or live class really doesn't matter if
you can pass the state test. Once you pass the state test, the state
says you're a certified court reporter, so it doesn't really matter
where you got your education. This is one of those fields you can't
float through like you could with a regular college course. Why do
you think there's such a huge dropout rate? Either you can get the
testimony or you can't: simple as that. You figure it out REAL quick
once you sit in your first deposition ;-O
Important thing here to keep in mind about being a CR is the
practice. It's ENDLESS: I repeat: ENDLESS. As long as you know that
going in, fine. You have to literally take the machine to bed with
you if you want to finish the program in a reasonable amount of
time. I'd venture to say that there's some people out there in the
online courses -- some, mind you -- that are still practicing away
and have been there for over five or six years. They'll never admit
it, but I'm sure they exist. My dad was a CR so I knew what I was
getting into. My wife that I met in CR school had been there for a
good 5 years before I waltzed in and she and I finally got through to
her and her friends to practice more and we all got out after about 2
1/2 years after I started. She was so pissed as I caught up, but I
practiced constantly and got them going, too. So attending a school
is better for the camaraderie than an online program. I'll give it
I started out in CR school and discovered scoping there. I started scoping
while in school. Due to financial reasons, I had to quit school and work
full time. After a few years of working in the corporate world, I decided
to scope full time. Scariest decision of my life.
I'm ready to enroll in CR school again and finally finish this time. I will
continue to scope full time while in school. I love scoping because of the
fact that I'm my own boss, can somewhat set my own hours and work in my
pajamas; however, I'm going ahead with more CR studies because, first and
foremost, I need to earn more money. Secondly, because I feel I'll be an
excellent reporter. Thirdly, because I started it and won't be able to live
with myself if I don't finish.
You mentioned money, so I'm going to assume that's one of the major key
factors in your decision. In either profession, the amount of money you can
earn depends upon how good you are and how much you want to work. I will
tell you that I work basically nonstop, including nights and weekends, until
I hit a slow spot around December - February and I make less than $30,000
per year. You may be able to surpass that if you get a few daily copy
trials or something, but for the most part, I think I'm correct in stating
that my income is pretty much in line with everyone else's.
Reporting is a different story. I know a reporter that works about two days
per week and makes around $45,000 per year, and that's after she pays the
scopist. It all depends upon how much you want to work, how fast you can
turn your transcripts around and the number of pages you get. I know
another reporter who works four to five days per week, usually all-day depos
and billed out over $17,000 in one month. That's, of course, before paying
the scoping and any expenses she incurred, but you can see how the income
From my perspective, scoping is great if it's not the only income you depend
on; one huge reason for my going forward with CR school. When you hit the
slow times, you just have no idea how much money is coming in or when it's
coming in. Credit suffers greatly. If you have a husband or significant
other whose income can meet the bills during your slow times, that's perfect
A few questions you must ask yourself are:
How much time can I devote to schooling?
Approximately nine months to one year for scoping; CR is approximately three
to four years or more.
Do I have the means necessary to acquire the equipment needed?
This all depends on whether you're buying used or new, but the cost is
significant in either profession.
Do I have the discipline to be my own boss? How do you handle distractions?
Am I willing to sacrifice precious time with my family and friends to devote
time to study, study and more study?
How much time you devote to study and practicing on your steno machine, I
feel, contributes greatly the amount of time needed to build speed and get
If you're really interested in CR school and think it may be for you, there's no reason you can't do both. You could go to CR school to learn steno and
transcript preparation, acquire your equipment, scope while attending CR
I reread your post again and I think you have a basic decision to make
here that will help clear things up. Do you want to work from home or
do you want to get dressed up and haul equipment out to various
locations so that you can make X amount more money?
Unless money is the deciding factor, and hopefully it's not, try to
picture yourself doing one, then the other, of both of these things. Do
you like to work in your PJs very early/late when everyone else in the
house is sleeping? Do you like to be out and about and mingling with
attorneys and listening to what the witnesses have to say? (Granted,
after a while you quit "hearing" what's said. ) What would make
you happy? Or maybe you'd rather be an official and record courtroom
proceedings all day and be paid a salary (in most places) and have
some/all transcripts ordered?
Scoping is the far better world for me because I am in hog heaven
working from home, running errands at 2:00 in the afternoon, not ever
having to wear high heels again (well, on the job anyway), enjoying the
company of my four parrots and dog throughout the day, and doing things
during that day I just can't do at any other kind of job - like an
occasional nap or go to an aerobics class or run the car over for
whatever it needs next, etc., etc. Plus, I really like the work. While
I think I could become a fast writer if I went to CR school, I simply
wouldn't want to sit there taking every single word for hours and
hours. I don't like to sit still that long! I'd rather be getting a
fresh cup of coffee/glass of ice tea, you name it, anything rather than
sit still where it's up to someone else when we break, when we eat, when
we go home.
But everyone has different priorities to be happy day in and day out.
Identifying yours will help you make the right career decision. :)
Just wanted to put my two cents in since I have done both. I really
did love scoping, but it did seem that I was always working and for
far less money. I was also having to get out different reporter's
files and see how they wanted it done, punctuation and their
preferences, and keeping that all straight was hard. Now I do not
have to even thing about it. I do it MY WAY.
Also, I absolutely love the machine. It is fun and challenging. No,
you never get to the point where you are not listening if you are a
good reporter because if you do, you will not get everything
correctly. You have to not only hear but understand the context to
make a good verbatim record.
Anyway, I am just one of those unusual reporters who loves her job
and loves the money too!! Of course, I do depos and have a lot of
freedom to work or not work. There is plenty of PJ days still too
when I am doing my own transcripts so I did have to give that up
I have a little input to add, and that would be the
emotional aspect of CR. I studied, hard, for two and
a half years, wrote at 225 wpm and was ready to take
my test and begin my career. I had the good fortune
of having a friend who was a reporter and allowed me
to sit in on many hearings and deps. I was appauled
and sickened by what I heard. I found myself sobbing
for a woman who wanted a divorce because she didn't
have another bone in her face to give to her spouse
who beat her for not getting the right kind of cat
food. I nearly vomited when I listened in on the
incest/rape case of a NINE MONTH OLD little, baby
My friend told me that I would eventually harden to
that. I wouldn't feel or hear that after time. I
felt that I wouldn't be able to harden. I wanted to
feel the anger and the digust that I felt. I didn't
want to "numb" out to the injustices that go on around
me. So, I took the two and half years of education,
along with my machine, and became a REALLY GOOD
secretary, and eventually became an executive
secretary. I worked, as such, for 20+ years. And
now, for the reasons all of you tout, I am coming back
to my training, plan to use my knowledge of reporting
(It's like riding a bike! I still remember my theory
from 22 years ago!)and all of the training and special
courses I have taken over the years and put it to use
as a Scopist. I know I will love it and will do very
well. I am so excited to get started. I have a
couple more weeks left of "corporate USA" and then I
can get started.
I hope maybe I have given you another little
insight into CR. All of my very best friends in the
world are reporters -- they love it! For me, it was a
bit much. To each his own -- how wonderful we are
able to have choices, no?
Your experience (above) mirrored mine, only mine was in juvenile court when I
first started reporting in Sacramento. I couldn't go back. That agency did
a lot of pro tem court work and that's when I developed my intense dislike
for reporting in a courtroom. When I moved to San Francisco I was fortunate
to work with a firm that handled almost all business litigation. No
divorces, almost no personal injury. If I hadn't moved and fallen into that
situation (it was blind luck), I would not have continued reporting. After
several years when I moved back to Sacramento and returned to the usual mix,
I quite honestly hated it. It's why I got out of reporting as soon as I
As mentioned in the other posts, CR school is a tough road. I knew
many who got to the end and quit. In the group that started with me,
also only about 10 percent or less ended up making it to the end and
getting their license. Then a couple of those quit after reporting for
a few years. So that's a reality you have to be aware of.
On the plus side, regarding the income, in my first nine months out of
school, I made $63,000. That was being a newbie and not working every
day. Your income will vary depending on the amount you want to work,
what kind of jobs you routinely receive, your time commitments at
home, et cetera.
It's a great job if you have the stamina for it, and I would encourage
you if you think you want to go for it. On the other hand, I found it
quite stressful as a mother of two small children to keep up with the
demands of the job. Now, as the mother of four, I find scoping more
Regarding what kind of jobs you'll get and what you need to be a good
CR, I agree with the other posts. You have to be persistent and take
the academics in school seriously.
Another good suggestion is to scope while in CR school. I did it and
found it invaluable. I later worked for the same agency owner/reporter
as a new reporter myself, and now, 15+ years later, I'm scoping for
that same reporter again. In addition, I'm also now scoping for a girl
that went to school with me but graduated after me, which is working
Here is my take on your query. I worked as a freelance court
reporter for 13 years until I had a baby last fall. The payoff of
enduring court reporting school is great once you get out and get
certified, if you live in a state that requires that. The money is
good, but the stress is high. I started school in '88 with a class
of 32, but when I graduated, there was only four other people from my
class that were still there. How quick you get out depends on how
much work you're willing to put into it, how much you're willing to
practice, and how much stress you can handle. The stress in school
is great as well, but it's not as high as when you get out in the
field. Not every day is stressful, but there are times when you take
an all-day job and they want the transcript in their hands by the
next day. Or you get in a deposition and everyone is talking at the
speed of light. That's where the stress really comes in, especially
since you have to make a verbatim record. My suggestion to you if
you do become a court reporter is once you graduate, do your own
scoping for a year or so and then get a scopist. I did not do that.
I did all of my own scoping and proofreading. That wasn't the best
choice I ever made, but at the time, I thought I needed to do it
all. That can really push you to burn out fast, which is not
One thing I will suggest is that if you train to be a court reporter,
you don't have to work specifically in court or at depositions. The
demand is great for broadcast captioners and CART reporters. You
know when a show is closed-captioned? Well, that's a court reporter
sitting either in a studio or at home captioning what everyone is
saying. By a certain year (I'm not sure what year, but it's coming
up fast), all companies are going to have to have all of their
programs captioned. It's a part of the ADA. They're now training
students specifically to fill this need. There is extensive
training, but after that, you do have the ability to work from home.
If you're interested, take a look at www.vitac.com. That's one of
the big captioning companies. It will give you lots of info.
CART reporters work directly with deaf and hard-of-hearing folks.
This might include going to school with a student and setting up your
computer and machine to write for him what goes on in class, or you
might write a conference for someone or realtime a church service. I
haven't tried CART, but I know people who have and they say the
reward is great.
To me, the decision to quit reporting to stay home with my daughter
was the best decision I ever made. While I was pregnant, I was
always told that as a reporter, I have the best job in order to have
a family. Well, I can see that point of view, but at the same time,
you can depend on what time a depo starts, but you can't depend on
when it ends. That would make it difficult to schedule your life
around. Nevermind the fact that you might have that 250-page rush
come along at an inopportune time. They usually try to tell you
you'll be taking a rush, but 99 percent of the time, you'll get to a
depo and THEN find out it's a rush. Now that I'm scoping, I feel
much less stress. I enjoy the reporters that I work for, and it's so
nice to not have to deal with the stress factor anymore.
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